[EN] CA – China’s Missing Energy Debate – June 2011
– CHINA’S MISSING ENERGY DEBATE –
1. Re-examining nuclear power after Fukushima (Marie-Hélène Schwoob)
2. The “financialisation” of the oil price (Gong Cheng)
3. US-China cooperation on renewable energy (Michal Meidan)
4. China, international energy organisations, and regional cooperation (Marie-Hélène Schwoob)
- Like other countries, China was forced by Fukushima to reappraise its massive nuclear energy programme, and some worry that its technically skilled personnel are spread too thin. However, experts agree that “on nuclear development, China can’t stop eating in case it chokes.”
- There is growing concern that the price of oil is becoming increasingly “politicised” and “financialised” by the growth in the market for oil futures, over which China has little leverage.
- Chinese commentators see energy and environmental agreements signed by presidents Hu and Obama earlier this year as evidence of the potential for cooperation on renewable energy to smooth bilateral relations between the two powers.
- China sees international energy organisations as dominated by the West, and so has sought to secure its energy supply by promoting the growth of Chinese power companies inside exporting countries and building “energy corridors” with neighbouring countries. At least some analysts argue that China should continue to remain outside the International Energy Agency.
- Under the twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), China plans that non-carbon energy will make up 15 per cent of the country’s energy production by 2020, and aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2015.
- The country has 13 nuclear power stations in operation, 30 stations under construction and a further 90 in development.
- China sees alternative energy as a new export niche: it makes 45 percent of the world’s wind turbines and is the leader in solar panel sales in Europe.
- In January 2011, presidents Hu Jintao and Barack Obama signed energy and environmental agreements worth $45 billion, of which half related to clean technologies and the development of renewable energies.
How will China power its huge and growing economy in the years ahead? The world’s largest nuclear programme and ambitious plans for renewable energy are both part of the plan, as Beijing seeks to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on imported oil. But with the Fukushima meltdown turning governments as far away as Berlin off nuclear power, what has been the Chinese reaction to Japan’s disaster? Are China’s plans for alternative energy a chance to collaborate with the USA and lessen the geopolitical tensions caused by its search for raw materials, or yet another potential source of friction? The latest edition of China Analysis, published today by the European Council on Foreign Relations and Asia Centre, offers Chinese answers into these questions by analysing the evolving debates among experts within China itself.